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Facing the Giants
Jason McLeod - photo by Luke Martin/staff

McLeod interview

GSU's Jason McLeod discusses 'Facing the Giants'

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    When Jason McLeod found out his church in Albany would be filming a movie about football, he had no intention of getting a speaking part.
    In fact, being a football player himself, he just wanted to put on some pads and hit somebody and tell people he was in a movie.
    So when he went to Sherwood Baptist Church during the auditions to let them know he wanted to help out anyway he could, he was surprised when Alex Kendrick, the director, asked him to read a few lines.
    McLeod, now a Georgia Southern student, eventually landed the part of Brock Kelly in the movie "Facing the Giants," a role he said wasn't much of a stretch for him to play.
    "When I read the script, I thought 'this is my life,'" he said. "He was apathetic and half-hearted in everything he did, even though he was in a position of leadership."
    McLeod said his time in the movie was a turning point in his life as he now intends to go into the ministry after he graduates from Georgia Southern.

Making the movie
    Sherwood Baptist Church's mission statement is "to change the world from Albany, Georgia" and one of the ways they've tried to do that is though movie-making.
    McLeod said the church made one movie a few years ago that was shown in local theaters and videos and DVDs of the movie have been used in prison ministries around the country. That movie was made for around $20,000.
    So when they decided to make another movie, they wanted it to look like Hollywood movies, complete with high-definition cameras. McLeod sad they began praying and within a few days, they had raised $100,000 for equipment rental. They also got in touch with a production team from Orlando who had seen their earlier movie. The team agreed to work at a reduced rate.    
    McLeod said they filmed for six weeks in the summer of 2004 and anticipated similar results from their first movie. Everyone in the cast and all the extras were members of the church, McLeod said, and not professional actors.
    Just as they were set to release the film, Kendrick contacted the Christian Music label Provident to see about possibly using a song from the label in their movie.
    Initially, they didn't sound receptive, especially because the movie was being produced by a church and not a movie studio. However, the head of the company got an advance copy of the movie and after screening it, flew to Albany and told them they could not only use the song they wanted, but could use any song from their library for the movie.
    He asked Kendrick how many theaters he hoped to show the movie in and Kendrick responded by saying "around 40."
    Kendrick was then told he wasn't dreaming big enough and that Provident wanted to put them in touch with their parent company, Sony, to distribute the movie nationwide.
    When it opened in September, it was in more than 400 theaters from coast to coast.
About the Movie
    Facing the Giants focuses on the fictional Shiloh Christian Academy football team and coach.
    The coach, also played by Kendrick, is going through financial difficulties with his wife as well as suffering though another losing season.  Also, doctors told him he and his wife would never be able to have children and several parents of the players want to see the coach fired.
    Kendrick's character eventually rededicates his life to God and tells his football team that they need to quit worrying about the outcome of the game and to focus on giving God the glory though their play.
    Also during this time, a revival spreads throughout the school and the team starts winning games, eventually advancing to the championship game where they face the three-time defending state champion Giants.
    Over the course of the movie, several miracles occur in both the lives of the football team and the coaches, something McLeod said was all based in fact.
    "All the miracles that happened in the movie actually happened," he said. "The writers just took what happened and put in down on paper."
 Impact on McLeod
    The movie was filmed in 2004, during McLeod's senior year of high school. He'd already decided to go to Georgia Southern and play football.
    When he came to GSU, he met Stewart Moody, the team chaplain who also works at Statesboro First Baptist Church.  They developed a relationship and during spring break, McLeod went on a mission trip to the Bahamas where he was touched by what he saw.
    "It blew me away," he said. "They live in poverty and have almost nothing, but they're thankful for what they have," he said.
    When he returned, he wasn't sure if football was what he needed to be focused on with his life. He decided to play again during his second year at GSU, making the travel squad and getting playing time for the Eagles.
    However, he knew football wasn't for him and wanted to go into the ministry.
    Despite that, he wasn't ready to quit the team just yet. He spent seven weeks during the off-season doing mat drills, which require perseverance and persistence to complete. At that same time, he was reading his Bible and God was showing him verses about those same qualities.
    He then met with Eagle football coach Brian VanGorder and told him of his decision and that it wasn't a snap decision, but that it was something he'd been considering for a long time.
    VanGorder told him that if he was at peace with his decision, then he supported it.
    McLeod now interns at Statesboro First Baptist Church and travels the country speaking to different youth and college groups about the impact Jesus has had on his life. Wednesday, he'll be speaking at Gracewood Baptist Church at 7:30 p.m.    
    "Facing the Giants" is rated PG and is still showing at Statesboro Cinema 12 this week.
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